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Iraqi ministers sworn in; multinational force takes helm in south

U.S. soldiers patrol the Tigris River Tuesday in Tikrit, Iraq.
U.S. soldiers patrol the Tigris River Tuesday in Tikrit, Iraq.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- In another step toward restoring self-rule in Iraq, the ministers of the Iraqi Governing Council on Wednesday were sworn into office by the council's outgoing president, Ibrahim al-Jafari.

The council Monday chose the slate of 25 cabinet ministers. Sources close to the process said the list was reviewed by L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq.

Bremer said the council will run the "day-to-day business of government."

"They will run the ministries, the day-to-day business of government is in their hands, they will be involved in the final stages of the 2004 budget preps, and they will have responsibility for operating their ministries according to those budgets," Bremer said Tuesday.

"It is our intention to keep authority and responsibility closely linked, and therefore as the ministers settle into their positions, the advisers from the coalition will not only yield authority, we will thrust authority on the new ministers."

Meanwhile, the U.S. military Wednesday handed over control of five provinces in south-central Iraq to a multi-national force led by Poland.

At Wednesday's ceremony in Babylon, the commander of coalition ground forces, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, called the transfer "a dawning of a new age for the people of Iraq."

"What a momentous day for the community, truly a historical day where we find ourselves integrating 21 additional nations into this coalition," Sanchez said.

The transfer had been delayed by the security situation in the town of Najaf, according to sources at the U.S. Central Command.

Parts of the region remain unsettled after Friday's bombing in Najaf, outside the Imam Ali Mosque, considered sacred by Shiites. The blast killed at least 83 people.

Among those killed was Shiite Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, spiritual leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

In a move that could draw even more international participation in the post-war effort, the Bush administration will circulate a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution as early as Wednesday calling for a multinational force for Iraq and strengthening the United Nations' role in the reconstruction of the country, administration officials told CNN Tuesday. (Full story)

-- CNN White House Correspondent Dana Bash and State Department Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.


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